No Children

It’s a sad track. No children. What is a man without children? Who remains to carry on his name? My last post was titled “Masculinity.” It was a post all about being an ally to women. I suppose this post would be more at the heart of masculinity. Children capture a powerful dream – a dream of legacy and survival.

I’m feeling a bit sad about my own circumstances here. I have no children. I remember the last time that I had sex and the distinctive insult I experienced when she asked me to put a condom on…”Don’t you think I’m good enough to have children with? WTF!?” Weak thoughts from a momentary lapse into self-pity. I remember attempting to become a sperm donor, qualifying (the qualification process is overwhelming!) and becoming a substitute teacher which made it impossible to continue the program due to scheduling conflicts. I was asked why I would like to be a sperm donor. I had a number of exquisite, thoughtful answers, but one was always a sort of alpha male excuse about spreading my seed or something; it was always so funny in the past.

Tonight I asked my sister if she thought I would have children and she said, “No.” I discovered in an instance that I take my sisters perception of me a bit more serious than I have been willing to admit. I remember standing in what will soon be my house’s backyard a number of years ago and my sister basically telling me to come back home to Chattanooga, get a job at one of the awesome private schools here and coach soccer. I completely scoffed at the proposition. “Shittt!! I live in SAN FRANCISCO!! ARE YOU KIDDING!?” And here I am living the vision my sister had for me less than 10 years later.

I map all these moments to view the insecurity before me. I’m afraid that I will leave no legacy and have no children. I’m afraid that my genetic line will die with me. I’m 34, etc., etc. I know that I”m not alone in this fear. I have counter-narratives over and over. I am a teacher. I currently have 82 children. I do my best to meet both my curriculum goals and pour as much of my spirit in to each of my students as I can. My sponsor once encouraged me to look at my presence circumstance. I wanted children and God has sent me more than I know what to do with. The love that is with me is constant and exceptional. When I was hired recently a number of people reassured me that I was already a teach, the only difference is that I’ll be paid for it now; they were merely fb comments but I took them to heart.

I believe that being a man is more about the accepting attitude, the perseverance of character, and penetrating love (something about penetration!). Consciousness is much more than genetics. Jesus had no children. It’s Christmas anyways…

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Masculinity

I’ve been so deeply attentive to feminist thought, as praxis, that I feel a sense of nostalgia about masculinity. It’s more than nostalgia; it’s a feeling of duty I sense. The world is still hyper-masculinized. A 5,000 year old legacy of masculine domination isn’t neatly balanced by a few successive waves of feminism over the last 150 years. Feminism is still in its infancy across the globe, but in highly developed areas feminism – the empowerment of women in general – is outstandingly successful. So much so that I wonder what spaces men should stand – as allies, as human beings with gifts to offer.

Understanding the privileges I carry as a masculine body has been an enormous gift. I have labored to be an ally not only to women, but to non-heteronormative bodies (queer/trans bodies)- those whose subject positions, constituted by their gender, do not afford the same privileges.

Currently, my life is thriving in an all girls school. I work with very few men. I am surrounded by women, and I love it! I have found a space where my attentiveness to dynamics of gender is of benefit to an entire community of girls. This is the space that I am thinking about my masculinity. Everyday I perform masculinity that has internalized the critical lenses developed by feminism. Its a gift to have those lenses, especially as they enact justice. I whole heartedly believe that grasping the perspective that our world is gendered – power is negotiated with/through gender – is a huge step toward understanding broad contexts, and most humans around the planet have yet to posses that gift, for reasons of poverty, privilege, and ignorance (the latter two plague these United Stations).

Now, for me, what does a post-feminist male perform? What are his commitments? I seem to have lived into a space where a post-feminism must thrive for the sake of preserving masculinity. There is a real danger that justice is overshot for the sake of self-definition. I think all critical movements risk falling from grace into retribution. You don’t want a feminist voice to be so loud that you crush the creativity constituted by gender dynamics. By in large, this is a microcosmic problem that flows from special contexts like the one in which I find myself.

Feminism still has a long way to go! Instances of privilege are being statistically mapped to greater and greater degrees – from worker pay to developmental policy the world still privileges white males. I suppose I live my way into the answer… or not.

I’ve always valued integration. It’s absolutely amazing to recognize someone who is mastering an identity hospitable to genders. I find those individuals more interesting, but in any case, it is difficult to judge – the act itself is privileging.

Consciousness and Anger

I can’t afford to be angry any more. I would like to be angry, to be enraged… and it can come so quickly, but I have been down a path of anger and it almost destroyed me. I’d like to think that anger is just boring now. It’s not quite creative enough, is it? But it does have power. Anger can sustain entire movements of social change.

I am connected to an entire community of social activists and scholars whose fb posts continually update the unfolding events tied to Mike Brown’s and Eric Garner’s death by the police. There is to be a “Day of Anger” march in a few days in New York and San Fransisco – cities all around the nation. Actually, Anonymous is calling it a “Day of Anger,” but there are other names; Popular Resistance, is calling this Saturday a “Day of National Action: Wave of Indignation,” and a “Day of Resistance.”

Its a movement for a community of color and all their allies to be heard, felt, seen… for what is a deep need to express the pain that comes from multi-generational violence and injustice. Life is valid. The raced momentum calling for justice is absolutely valid. This is a cultural movement seeking liberation for the oppressed, disenfranchised, the marginalized of these United Stations. Paulo Freire writes beautifully about the oppressed. Freire’s book is entitled, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Listen to the spirit of his voice:

“[T]he more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.”

AND…

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

AND…

“This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.”

Change is built. Freedom is not a gift it is forged through tears, gas, blood, bodies, broken walls, shouts; It’s work. It should be paid, but its the driving faith of internal conditions – will, love, heart, hope, courage, anger, rage – that constitute its becoming.

Perhaps, all I can be to a movement is an author. I touch these fb posts, and I feel deep seeded rage begin to boil. It’s not cowardliness that causes me to recoil from angered engagement; It’s the knowledge of that path in my personal journey. In my past I become self-consumed with enacting misplaced justice. Anger is shared so easily. You can pick it up on the street like a damn cold. I’m called to pray. Praying is one of the most courageous practices I can offer the world. My prayer life is built from the hospitality I offer myself… as I love myself…others in my presence are unconsciously given permission to love themselves. This is what I would ask of a movement. Learn to love yourself. Discover what compassion has to offer the world. As for judgments about others or movements (raced or classed) I can’t afford to be angry.

A Year’s Growth

It was this time last year that my employer would hire a new English teach to replace me. I was living in Guilin, China at the time. I had the most adult bedroom there… I had found little Christmas lights and taped them above my bed in a spiral fitting the very evolutionary turn my life was taking. I loved that damn bedroom! Anyways… I had indeed cursed in the classroom. Fuck those Chinese students! They were dicks and needed to be told. Right?! 17 year olds need the HAMMER! My compassion, my capacity as a skilled teacher, had run dry after only three months and I lost it one day in the classroom. As sensitive as I am, the tears were plentiful.

After I was hired this past summer one of my dearest friends and fellow choir members looked at me with an entire dose of love and intensity and told me that I would be just fine, I would even do great, “Just don’t curse in the classroom, Adam.” To which I respond with a nervous, enthusiastic laugh, “Right!” Nervous, because I didn’t walk into school that day in China and think…”You know what? Fuck those kids! I’m going to let them have it today for being so disrespectful to me!” I arrived that day to succeed and I was absolutely powerless over my actions that led to my termination. It’s super humbling to realize the truth. It’s true that I had little support a year ago. It was a new program and my enthusiasm to succeed would only carry me so far.

I remember interviewing for my current position over the summer and being asked to give an account of a challenging circumstance in my life and how I handled it. I talked to my hiring committee about China and my termination (in vague enough terms – I left out the particular details of the cursing and the incident with the little child – he didn’t die). I explained how challenging it was to fail, to see the power of my enthusiasm exhausted in its attempt to compensate for lack of skill, of experience. Every teacher I spoke with assured me that I was on the right path – the first class is always the hardest.

A year later, I am forced to acknowledge a deep gratitude for the support around me. I am still employed, still… Still, it seems that the course of my evolution – in character, profession, skill, manifestation, in power and overcoming – winds cyclical. The very forces that I have struggled with over the past month are of the same character of those that shook me down a year ago. And I fear that I will relive another termination – a fear, not necessarily grounded in any reality. The difference is reality.

I get to keep showing up with my best and let God decide… Reality is the velvet hammer.